Carrasco’s Suspension Not Just Impacting His Season

Thursday night the Cleveland Indians lost 10-8 in the series finale to the Toronto Blue Jays. Despite the loss, Cleveland won the first two games of the series and the new look Tribe open a series tonight in Tampa against the Rays.

The Indians and fans alike continue to be excited about the season in front of them and happy to leave Toronto with a series victory. Toronto is a popular pick to win the American League East Division.

In a game with many twists and turns, and 18 runs, certainly the Indians had their chances to win the game and sweep the series, but what if that series sweep was even closer than it appears? The Indians may have lost last night’s game, in part, from a decision they made over a week ago.

When Indians Manager Terry Francona named his Opening Day roster, he chose to include Carlos Carrasco for the purpose of fulfilling a six game suspension. Carrasco hit Kansas City Royals’ Billy Butler in Aug. 2011 and was suspended by Major League Baseball. Carrasco was placed on the disabled list and underwent Tommy John surgery before fulfilling the suspension. Now, Carrasco is healthy, but still needs to serve his penalty.

The Indians plan was to play a man short for the first six games, having Carrasco serve his six game suspension, then send him to Triple-A Columbus. The very versatile Tribe could play with 12 position players and 12 pitchers for a week, before going to a traditional 25-man roster. However, often a weakness is exploited.

Monday, when Scott Kazmir strained a rib cage muscle, the Indians were forced to add him to the roster immediately and option Nick Hagadone to Triple-A Columbus. Kazmir was questionable for his Saturday start at the time and since has been scratched. The extra days on the roster would speed up the 15 days on the disabled list for Kazmir.

Kazmir’s injury forced a bullpen pitcher back to Triple-A. Immediately, the Indians were playing two men down on their roster, carrying six starting pitchers, yet only four were healthy to pitch. Another transaction for a Saturday starter is necessary.

Then, Wednesday evening Chris Perez allows a game-tying home run in the ninth inning to Jose Bautista and the Indians play 11 innings before winning 3-2. Every pitcher in the bullpen appeared in the game, except for Cody Allen. Thursday, Brett Myers made a less than outstanding first impression in his Tribe debut, allowing seven runs in five innings of work. However, after five innings, the Tribe was tied at six with Toronto. The Blue Jays had already removed their starter, Mark Buehrle, from the game. Yet, Francona sent Myers back out to start the sixth inning.

Francona had little choice to send Myers back out to start the sixth. He was gambling. Since Perez, Vinnie Pestano and Joe Smith had each pitched in the first two games, they were likely near unavailable. For Perez, Tuesday and Wednesday was the first time he had pitched in back-to-back games all spring. Allen and Matt Albers were available and Rich Hill or Bryan Shaw, if necessary, but the bullpen was quickly tired after just two games and a poor start.

It took just one pitch for the gamble to cost the Tribe when J.P. Arencibia hit his second home run of the game giving the Blue Jays a 7-6 lead. Myers was removed for Allen who struggled himself and the Indians never regained the lead. Albers pitched the seventh and eighth inning, allowing a run in his second inning of work.

Had the Indians elected to send Carrasco to Triple-A to begin the season, they could have opened the season with 13 eligible pitchers and one more available arm last night. Carrasco’s suspension did not result in Kazmir’s injury, but minor injuries, extra inning games and poor starts from starting pitchers happen in a baseball season. It isn’t amazing that it happen within the six game span of Carrasco’s suspension.

Sometimes teams have to play shorthanded, but choosing to play shorthanded is never a good idea.

Granted, when the Indians need Carrasco to make a start this season it could be more difficult to get him on the roster and available with his suspension still looming. However, the Indians could have recalled Carrasco later this month around an off day. They could have optioned a bullpen pitcher to Triple-A around the off day, playing three games before the off day and three after. Certainly that would give the pen a better chance to survive a man down. If a starter was injured, or needing optioned to Columbus, Carrasco could also have been recalled and served his suspension around the off day without a starter pitching on short rest and then he could have assumed the spot in the rotation.

Likely the Indians were hesitant to ask any player to, “give up their spot,” in the middle of the season so that Carrasco could serve his suspension, yet that’s exactly what the Tribe had to do on Monday when they optioned Hagadone to Columbus to make room for Kazmir.

It’s unfair to assume the Indians would have been able to comeback and win Thursday evening’s offensive shootout if they would have had one more arm in the bullpen, but he would have been at least eligible on the roster to participate.

Photo: Chuck Crow/Cleveland Plain Dealer

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Heart bleeds for poor pathetic bullpen pitchers. In the 60s and even 70s MLB teams carried 10 pitchers & relievers could pitch 4 or 5 times a week.

    1. I understand Moose, but it isn’t the 1960s or 70s any longer and baseball is a different game now than it was then. Early in baseball history pitchers occasionally pitched both ends of a doubleheader. The game evolves. Like it or not, that’s just the way the game is played in 2013.

    2. You’re right Moose, and somehow they also got hurt less often than today’s bullpen guys. I understand that the game changes, but why are the supposedly bigger, stronger players of today also less durable?

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